Is it really beneficial to take some time off from the herb?
Photo courtesy of LTRMN
Have you been spending a lot of money on weed, lately? If you’re a regular herbivore, chances are you have a fairly high tolerance for THC. While researchers have yet to reach a verdict as to whether or not a high tolerance is problematic in the long-term, there are some downsides to having a high tolerance. But, what is cannabis tolerance and why do you develop tolerance? Fortunately, science has the answer.
The short answer to this question? No, you can’t be immune to getting high. While it is true that some people may not experience a robust effect with cannabis, being “immune” to the herb doesn’t have anything to do with it. If you are a new consumer, it is possible that you may have to consume the herb a couple of different times before you finally experience an effect. If you’ve eaten cannabis, the liver may even metabolize out cannabis compounds so efficiently that you don’t fully experience the true effects of the herb.
Sometimes, however, even regular cannabis consumers become desensitized to the psychoactive effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the primary intoxicant in the cannabis plant. If you continue to partake on a regular basis, you can also develop a tolerance to the effects of cannabis over time. In this sense, it may feel like you have become somewhat “immune” to getting high.
For cannabis novices and those who only consume the herb from time to time, the effects of the psychoactive plant can be quite strong. As you continue to consume regularly, however, some of the initial side effects of cannabis may dissipate. For example, new or infrequent consumers often experience an increase in heart rate after inhaling THC. This increase in heart rate may go away over time. Similarly, consuming THC can often cause anxiety in novice or occasional consumers, With tolerance, however, cannabis-induced anxiety may become less common.
Being tolerant to cannabis, however, does not mean that you become immune to getting high. Even consumers who use cannabis regularly can still become intoxicated. Though, with tolerance, they become less sensitive to the overall effects of the plant. For this reason, they may not experience the strong psychoactive potential of the herb. Instead, cannabis can begin to feel more normal and the difference between being intoxicated and not will be less extreme. It is because of tolerance that many medical cannabis consumers continue to live normal, high-functioning lives despite consuming the herb daily.
Simply stated, you develop cannabis tolerance when cells in your body become less sensitive to THC. THC, along with other compounds in the plant called cannabinoids, mimic chemicals that our bodies produce naturally. These molecules, like the body’s own cannabis, are called endocannabinoids. The prefix endo means internal. These internal cannabinoids were named after the molecules found in the cannabis plant, which were discovered first.
Endocannabinoids have numerous roles in the human body, including managing stress, inflammation, memory, mood, and cognition. To produce these effects, they interact with special receptor sites that sit on cell membranes, called cannabinoid receptors. Endocannabinoids engage cannabinoid receptors much like a key fits into a lock. When these chemical messengers interact with their matching lock, they cause a cascade of physiological changes inside the cell.
When you smoke or consume cannabis, psychoactive THC hijacks the receptor sites for your normal endocannabinoids. This is how the compound produces its psychoactive and medicinal effects. As you continue to smoke over time, however, cells start to decrease their number of cannabinoid receptors. In science, this process is called downregulation.
When cannabinoid receptors downregulate, you lose sensitivity to the psychoactive effects of cannabis. But, don’t worry! These changes are not permanent. In fact, cells downregulate receptors quite often. For example, if you notice a certain smell upon entering a room, you may stop smelling the same smell as you continue to stay in the same place. Part of the reason for this is because olfactory receptors, which allow you to register scent, become desensitized very quickly to help you adjust to your surroundings.
Research suggests that cannabinoid receptors begin to return to normal after a mere two days of abstinence from THC. How long it takes for cannabinoid receptors to return to normal, however, is highly variable from person to person. A chronic cannabis consumer may need several days or even a couple of weeks to fully detox from THC. During this time, it is likely that the body will begin to adjust and begin to rebalance its endocannabinoid system.
In order to prevent dependence on cannabis and maintain sensitivity to the psychoactive effects of the herb, many consumers opt to take a tolerance break. Often called a “T-break” a tolerance break is a period of abstinence from cannabis. Like a reboot of the endocannabinoid system, taking a tolerance break is ideal for anyone who feels that they have become too desensitized to cannabis.
Some people choose to slowly decrease the amount that they consume each day. Others choose to switch to CBD for a while, while others still go cold-turkey. Regardless of what you choose to do, tolerance breaks are recommended for any regular herbivore. While cannabis can be an excellent tool, it does stop working effectively the more often you partake in the plant. If you’re hoping to enjoy the herb for many years to come, consuming in moderation is always recommended.
The ideal length of a tolerance break depends on how long you’ve been consuming cannabis and how often you enjoy the herb. Frequent consumers may want to avoid cannabis for at least one week before re-introducing the plant into your routine. Those who consume the herb more than once daily may benefit from a longer tolerance break, up to two full weeks. Chronic consumers hoping to completely eliminate THC from their system may want to abstain from cannabis for at least one month.
If you start to notice that your cannabis tolerance is too high, it’s easy to make a fix. Here are the first steps to addressing a high weed tolerance:
One of the most crucial ways to keep your tolerance in check? Take a tolerance break! While there are other tips and tricks that can help you reduce your tolerance, taking a tried-and-true tolerance break is perhaps the fastest and most effective way to improve your sensitivity to THC.
Cannabis is not like other substances in that it seems impossible to resist. In fact, when die-hard herb lovers take tolerance breaks, its not uncommon to find that the habit is missed more than the actual plant itself. After all, if cannabis is your go-to stress reliever after a long day at work, it can be a little jarring to suddenly change up your routine.
If you’re used to enjoying the herb with others, however, it’s easy to cheat on your t-break when your friends and family are all lighting up. Telling them in advance and explaining why tolerance breaks are useful might help you stick to your goals and remain successful in your tolerance break.
Apart from taking a tolerance break, there are a few ways to lower your improve your sensitivity to THC. Here are a few top hacks for lowering your THC tolerance:
There’s no need to go cold turkey from the start. If you would like to lower your tolerance, you can simply start decreasing your dosage a little at a time. If you partake multiple times a day, you can begin to cut out a couple smoke sessions at a time. Eventually, you may be able to cut down to every other day or just a few times a week so that you are not consuming as much THC.
CBD and THC work differently. Unlike THC, CBD does not produce an intoxicating effect. The compound also does not engage cannabinoid receptors like THC does. Instead, the molecule increases the circulation of your natural endocannabinoids. If your THC tolerance has become too high, CBD may be able to help the body adjust as you abstain from the cannabinoid.
Exercise naturally increases circulating levels of endocannabinoids. If you begin to lower your dosage of THC, hitting the gym and working up a sweat can make the process much easier. Vigorous exercise causes a natural high by boosting levels of an endocannabinoid known as anandamide. Dubbed “the bliss molecule”, anandamide is one of the endocannabinoids that is perhaps most similar to THC. If you’re hoping to give up THC, exercise is one of the next best things.
Many of the hacks used to try to decrease your cannabis tolerance can also be helpful to those experiencing cannabis withdrawal. If you have decided to go cold-turkey with your tolerance break, you may experience some negative side effects as your body adjusts back to its normal state. It’s not uncommon for consumers to experience difficulty sleeping, increased dreaming, irritability, low mood, increased body pain, and changes in appetite with abstinence from THC>
If you’re hoping to cut down on any malaise caused by cannabis withdrawal, here are a few things that may help:
Cannabis withdrawal is typically mild and is generally not disruptive. Maintaining an active lifestyle and setting aside plenty of time to enjoy relaxing activities can certainly help make the process easier. Endocannabinoids, after all, promote feelings of bliss and ease. To get your endocannabinoid system back in order, finding productive ways to ease stress and simply enjoy are a must.